She began once more knocking at the door, and the head Bee Nurse came running up, but this time she was fearfully angry. "You must mind what you are doing, my good Grub," she said. "You are the youngest of them all, and you are the worst for making a noise.
Next time I shall tell the Queen."
"First listen to me," said the Grub, and she told her about the Queen's wicked design.
"Good gracious! is that true?" cried the old Nurse, and beat her wings in horror. And without hearing a word more, she hurried off to tell the other Bees.
"I think I deserve a little honey for what I have done," said the little Grub. "But I can now lie down and sleep with a good conscience."
Next evening, when the Queen thought that all the Bees were in bed, she came to kill the Princesses. The Grub could hear her talking aloud to herself. But she was quite afraid of the wicked Queen, and dared not stir. "I hope she won't kill the Princesses," she thought, and squeezed herself nearer to the door to hear what happened.
The Queen looked cautiously round on all sides, and then opened the first of the doors. But at the same moment the Bees swarmed out from all directions, seized her by the legs and wings, and dragged her out. "What is the matter?" she cried. "Are you raising a rebellion?"
"No, your majesty," answered the Bees, with great reverence; "but we know that you are intending to kill the Princesses, and _that_ you shall not be allowed to do. What would become of us in the autumn after your majesty's death?"
"Let me go!" cried the Queen, and tried to get away. "I am Queen now anyway, and have the power to do what I like. How do you know that I shall die in the autumn?" But the Bees held her fast, and dragged her outside the hive. There they set her free, but she shook her wings in a passion and said to them,--
"You are disloyal subjects, who are not worth ruling over. I won't stay here an hour longer, but I will go out into the world and build a new nest. Are there any of you who will come with me?"
Some of the old Bees, who had been Grubs at the same time as the Queen, declared that they would follow her. And soon after they flew away.
"Now we have no Queen," said the others, "we must take good care of the Princesses." And so they crammed them with honey from morning till night; and they grew, and grabbed, and squabbled, and made more noise each day than the day before.
As for the little Grub, no one gave a single thought to her.
One morning the doors of the Princesses' chambers flew open, and all ten of them stepped out, beautiful full-grown Queen Bees. The other Bees ran up and gazed at them in admiration. "How pretty they are!" they said. "It is hard to say which is the most beautiful."
"_I_ am!" one cried.
"You make a mistake," said another, and stabbed her with her sting.
"You are rather conceited," shrieked a third. "I imagine that _I_ am rather prettier than you are." And immediately they all began calling out at once, and soon after began to fight with one another as hard as ever they could.
The Bees would have liked to separate them, but the old head Bee Nurse said to them,--"Let them go on fighting; then we shall see which of them is the strongest, and we will choose her to be our Queen. We can't do with more than one."
At this the Bees formed round in a ring and looked on at the battle. It lasted a long time, and it was fiercely fought. Wings and legs which had been bitten off were flying about in the air, and after some time eight of the Princesses lay dead upon the ground. The two last were still fighting. One of them had lost all her wings, and the other had only four legs left.
"She will be a poor sort of Queen whichever of the two we get,"
said one of the Bees. "We should have done better to have kept the old one." But she might have spared herself the remark, for in the same moment the Princesses gave each other such a stab with their stings that they both fell dead as a door-nail.
"That is a pretty business!" called the Bees, and ran about among each other in dismay. "Now we have no Queen! What shall we do? What shall we do?"
In despair they crawled about the hive, and did not know which way to turn. But the oldest and cleverest sat in a corner and held a council. For a long time they talked this way and that as to what they should decide on doing in their unhappy circumstances. But at last the head Bee Nurse got a hearing, and said,--"I can tell you how you can get out of the difficulty, if you will but follow my advice. I remember that the same misfortune happened to us in this hive a long time ago. I was then a Grub myself. I lay in my cell, and distinctly heard what took place. All the Princesses had killed one another, and the old Queen had gone out into the world: it was just as it is now. But the Bees took one of us Grubs and laid her in one of the Princesses' cells. They fed her every day with the finest and best honey in the whole hive; and when she was full-grown, she was a charming and good Queen. I can clearly remember the whole affair, for I thought at the time that they might just as well have taken me. But we may do the same thing again. I propose that we act in the same way."
The Bees were delighted, and cried that they would willingly do so, and they ran off at once to fetch a Grub.
"Wait a moment," cried the head Bee Nurse, "and take me with you.
At any rate, I will come and help you. Consider now. It must be one of the youngest Grubs, for she must have time to think over her new position. When one has been brought up to be a mere drudge, it is not easy to accustom oneself to wear a crown."
That also seemed to the Bees to be wise, and the old one went on, --"Close by the side of the Princesses' cells lies a little Grub.
She is the youngest of them all. She must have learnt a good deal by hearing the Princesses' refined conversation, and I have noticed that she has some character. Besides, it was she who was honourable enough to tell me about the wicked intentions of the old Queen. Let us take her."
At once they went in a solemn procession to the six-sided cell where the little Grub lay. The head Bee Nurse politely knocked at the door, opened it cautiously, and told the Grub what the Bees had decided. At first she could hardly believe her own ears; but when they had carried her carefully into one of the large, delightful chambers, and brought her as much honey as she could eat, she perceived that it was all in earnest.
"So I am to be Queen after all," she said to the head Bee Nurse.
"You would not believe it, you old growler!"
"I hope that your majesty will forget the rude remarks that I made at the time you lay in the six-sided cell," said the old Bee, with a respectful bow.
"I forgive you," said the new-baked Princess. "Fetch me some more honey."
A little time after the Grub was full grown, and stepped out of her cell as big and as beautiful as the Bees could wish. And besides, she knew how to commando "Away with you!" she said. "We must have more honey for our use in the winter, and you others must perspire more wax. I am thinking of building a new wing to the hive. The new Princesses shall live there next year; it is very unsuitable for them to be so near common Grubs."
"Heyday!" said the Bees to one another. "One would think she had been a Queen ever since she lay in the egg."
"No," said the head Bee Nurse; "that is not so. But she has had _queenly thoughts_, and that is the great thing."
A SWARM OF WILD BEES
By Albert W. Tolman
"How many bridges have I driven rivets on?" repeated the watchman, reflectively. "Let me see--just forty-seven--no, forty-eight! I forgot the Mogung cantilever. Never in Burma were you? Well, it's the only time I ever went abroad. It was something of a compliment for a young fellow of twenty-two to be sent on his company's first job abroad. I should have liked the trip first rate if Harry Lancy hadn't been going as foreman.
"Harry had risen from the ranks, and at twenty-five was considered one of the company's best men. I'd never worked under him; but I judged he'd be uppish and arbitrary, and knew I shouldn't like him.
You notice such things when you've just come of age. As you get older, you begin to think less of your own feelings, and more of doing your work right.
"We landed at Rangoon about May 1st, went by rail to Mandalay, and from there travelled slowly up-country by construction-train to the Mogung Gorge. During the whole journey I didn't speak a hundred words to Lancy. Still, I don't think he suspected I had any grudge against him. If he did, he never let on, but treated me just like the others.
"The gorge was an awful hole, two hundred and fifty feet wide and two hundred deep, with the river dashing white over the ledges at its bottom. It was to be spanned by a cantilever bridge with an intermediate truss.
"We found our work all cut out for us. Every beam and girder was on the ground, numbered and ready. There were plenty of coolies for the ordinary labor. So we got busy at once. A temporary wire suspension-bridge was thrown across above the site of the cantilever, and work begun from both sides at the same time.
"From the outset I had determined to give Lancy no chance for fault-finding, but to have as little to do with him as I possibly could.
"Little by little our beam-trusses pushed out from each bank, and the gap between them grew narrower.
"One thing that interested me especially at first was the wild bees. For miles back into the hills their nests lined the walls of the gorge. Millions of them made it their thoroughfare to and from the flower-covered plains below us. Particularly at morning and night their hum, echoing through the ravine and mingling with the murmur of the river, sounded like the drone of distant machinery.
"These bees were black and small; but they made up in fierceness for what they lacked in size. Their stings were far more painful and poisonous than those of our bees here. Some of us, myself included, learned this by experience; and we didn't need more than one lesson.
"By the middle of June the ends of the opposite beams were about fifty feet apart.
"One hot morning, between ten and eleven, I was reaming out a rivet-hole in the tip of the last beam. I was feeling out of sorts that forenoon. Lancy had given his orders to me gruff and short, though, as a matter of fact, he was probably just as gruff with everybody else. But when you're looking for trouble, you know, you don't have much trouble finding it.
"I straddled the beam, my feet almost touching under it. It was hot in the unclouded sun, and the air was full of tropical scents.
Insects hummed round me. Bright-colored butterflies floated by. Now and then a flock of shrieking birds swept up the gorge. On the steel behind me a dozen men were busy.